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a commitment to behave in a peaceful manner. This applies to behavior towards other people, and for most activists it also applies to property. For some, non-violence is a moral commitment and an expression of their integrity. For many social change activists non-violence is a tactic. Many social change activists would use violence if they believed that it would be more successful. Acts of violence are usually rejected by the public and are easily overtaken by the government. Non-violence is a central principle of civil disobedience. Some social change movements have been factionalized by an argument between violence and non-violence such as the civil rights movement, and the anti-Vietnam war movement. This conversation continues today in the protest movements of Mexico, Chile, Spain and Greece. Non-violence does not apply to self-defense; we are encouraged to take whatever action is needed to protect ourselves. If a community is under attack some consider it to be self-defense to fight back.

Two of the most recognized leaders of non-violence are Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. The model that they followed is called Satyagraha which is a Sanskrit word loosely meaning “truth force”. Satyagraha is a philosophy of “speaking truth to power”. It is a commitment to acts of good to promote a transition to a peaceful future.

Gandhi’s mass movements owed much of their success to the huge numbers of devout priests trained in Satyagraha who maintained strict non-violence while they were brutally beaten by the British military. Non-violence training was a central part of the anti-nuclear power movement in the 70s. Unfortunately most protesters today know little about non-violence and have no training in how to peacefully resist violence. Many peaceful protesters fight back when attacked and a peaceful protest can quickly become violent when provoked with violence. A peacekeeper is a person trained in maintaining non-violence at a peaceful protest.

Whether it is a moral calling or a tactic, most people in the Occupy movement agree that we can only succeed by using non-violence.

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